Wired Up Wrong

Being a review of culty cinema

Mad Max 2 (1981)

I love the road movie, it’s probably my favourite sub-genre, just ahead of movies about authors and movies with disc jockeys as the lead character. In fact, it’s such a prominent sub-genre that I think it’s about time that it was upgraded to full genre status, like the way a loveable old building gets itself listed at some point or another.

Anyways, there may be a case for the second Mad Max movie (aka The Road Warrior) to be installed as the ultimate road movie. Why? Firstly, it’s set after the end of the world (and at the end of the world- aka, Australia). So nothing can follow that, really. Secondly, and most importantly, it is the ultimate road movie because there is no option for the lead character other than to keep on moving, keep on driving. To stop (though it is necessary, to obtain precious gasoline) is to court death at the hands of murderous, rapacious gangs. I think it was this aspect, as much as the action sequences, that really gripped me when I first saw it as a child.  I may struggle to express it here, but it was the feeling that the film gave me, of always having to look over your shoulder; of not wanting to stray too far from your vehicle; whether you have enough ammunition…it’s actually an atmosphere that a lot of computer games recreate successfully.

As for the rest, of course :

  • Gibson has one of the hippest chracterisations (not to mention costumes) in the movies, easily equal, as far as I’m concerned, to The Man With No Name, and, arguably, even more charismatic.
  • The way George Miller seems to create memorable supporting characters largely based upon their appearance alone. All three films seem to be full of faces that seem familiar- I’m thinking particularly of Goose, The Mechanic, and the Pig-Killer guy from the third one. I’m usually thinking ‘was he in Neighbours?’ Most often, though, I haven’t seen them anywhere else- they are familiar to me only from this one role.
  • The unashamed brutality of the future world- the sequence in which Max and the pilot watch the evil bandits hunt down, rape, rob and kill a pair of escapees from the refinery had the air of a snuff film to my youthful eyes upon first childhood viewing. This was, as much as the violence of it (the level of which I was not used to as young as I was), due to the overall primal feel it carried- the fact that it takes place in a desert, dust kicked up all around- the primitive home-made costumes; the use of arrows instead of guns.
  • The craftsmanship of the action/stunt sequences, which are lifted far above most contenders by the movement and velocity of the camerawork
  • The dialogue, where it exists, is excellent, somewhat surprisingly for the genre, from the poetic opening voiceover to the endlessly quotable Humungus. Throughout the trilogy there is a nice influx of typically Aussie humour that manages to infiltrate even the darker moments.
  • However, I just can’t work out whether the absolutely relentless orchestral score, which blasts along throughout the movie, is a plus or a minus. It’s not that I dislike it as an artistic work, but it does tend to give me a headache

Leave a Reply »»

Login     Film Journal Home     Support Forums           Journal Rating: 4/5 (1)